Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Get your questions ready and join in at 1 p.m. Wednesday for our weekly Blues chat.

    It is that time of year again. Hockey season is upon us. The Blues prospects are en route to Traverse City, MIchigan, for the tournament there that starts tomorrow, and a week from tomorrow will be the start of camp here at Centene. (The rink, not the soccer stadium; this may get confusing.) There are questions here waiting for me, so let's jump in.
    If the Blues are going to continue to transition to more of a rush team, will they be able to tighten up their team defense? The first half of the season in particular saw a team with limited defensive awareness especially from the forwards.
    That's one of the questions, maybe the question, for this team. Can they improve on defense. It will be essentially the same cast of characters from last season, only without Perron, who was one of their best defensive forwards. The Blues aren't fully sold on being a rush team -- they still have more forecheckers than sprinters -- but Kyrou gives them that element and, as you may have heard, he's not going anywhere any time soon. Whether it's through schemes or improved play all around -- Kyrou says he's stronger on the puck now -- they have to get better defensively. We shall soon see.
    Tom,

    Have you seen a schedule of televised events for the home opener? Thanks in advance.
    I have not and would not expect to see that until close to the game. Everyone's getting back up to speed now.
    Do you see Tyler Bozak signing with the Blues or anyone else?
    There's always the chance that you get a situation like the Blues had with Troy Brouwer a few years back, where a team suddenly develops a pressing need for a player and don't want to dig too far down into their AHL depth chart and turns to a player like  Bozak. I'm not sure what that would look like with the Blues at the moment, but with them quite likely carrying only 13 forwards on their roster, there are some young players that may be worthy of a look before getting to Bozak. Injuries happen in the NHL; sometimes a lot of injuries. Right now, I don't see him fitting on this Blues team unless there's some extreme situation.
    Do you anticipate any surprises heading in to training camp?
    Surprises heading into camp or surprises in camp? In either case, the answer is no. I expect very few surprises in this camp. Barring a trade, an injury or someone having a miserable camp, you can probably come very close to putting together the 23-man opening day roster right now. How the defensive situation plays out will be something. Armstrong reiterated today that Perunovich has nothing left to learn in the AHL, and they could start the season with 8 defensemen on the roster. I guess Bolduc making the team could count as a surprise, with the roster a bit more fixed this season, it might be tough for him to get the nine-game look Neighbours got last season.
    I have heard some Blues media mentioning you don’t win with a young team, but the Blues are anything but a young team even if they have a few younger pieces. It would be more accurate to say you don’t win with an old team. Stamkos for example is one of the older main contributors for TB and he’s the same age as Tarasenko, the rest of the key players for TB are younger. The key players for CO are primarily under 30 as well. While they seem to still have a good team, is the window closing?
    Are you asking if the Blues window is closing or Colorado's? With the way the Blues are currently comprised, this season may mark the end of an era. Either Tarasenko or O'Reilly is gone after this season, and possibly both, unless the salary cap makes a big jump, which is still probably a season away. So as currently constituted, the last season for this Blues' window is now. Problem is, Colorado's window is open wider though, at least for this season.
    You don't win with a young team, but you have to have young players to win, because with the salary cap, if you're paying a player or two $8 million, you need four or five guys on entry level deals around the league minimum, and some of those guys are going to play. So if you can get relevant contributions from those guys, you're in a lot better shape, and if they're Cale Makar, you're even better off. The prime age in the NHL has been considered 28 or 29, but current research shows that number is even lower. So we may have to rethink what constitutes an old team. 
    The Blues are an old team. 
    If we assume Borts slides back to his traditional 7th D role, which of Peuronvich, Mikkola and Scandella form the 3rd pair? Given the age of the team especially on defense it would seem like the younger Perunovich and Mikkola would be the ones the Blues want to get regular action, but for injury or reasons of inconsistency neither have been able to keep the job. Scandella also seems to fit into a third line role at this stage of his career.
    Jim and I were discussing this as we watched the prospects work out this morning. Who are the two D-men out if they break camp with eight, which Armstrong suggested today could happen. Bortuzzo is an easy decision to make; no one on the team is more familiar with being a healthy scratch than he is. With the age of the group, it makes sense to use Mikkola and Perunovich, the only "young" guys they have back there and if they don't play Mikkola, they're looking at having five offensive-minded defensemen back there, which will make shutting down another team's top line tough. That makes Scandella the likely other scratch. 
    I asked Armstrong about this this morning and he said the following. Now maybe he just picked names of defensemen at random among the group, but he said about Perunovich: "So he’s going to get a real opportunity to play here and Leddy, Krug, they’ve got to support him but they’ve got to outplay him and his job is to outplay those guys."
    I would be real surprised if Krug or Leddy were getting scratched but that's what Armstrong said.
    I think they overpaid for Kyrou. Last season you could knock him off the puck with a feather. No question he has the speed, but in a lot of cases he lost the puck before he got to the circle. I sure hope I'm wrong.
    If you compare his skill set to Thomas, who makes the exact same amount of money, Thomas is the more well-rounded player. Thomas is probably worth more. But Kyrou can score goals, and that will always interest GMs and coaches. He said he's stronger now and should win more puck battles. If he can creep up from being a below average defensive player to a not-quite as far below average defensive player, that will be something. He was so exceptional offensively last season, and doing it in a way that looks sustainable, he is not someone the Blues would want to get away. If that's the case, they would likely kick themselves quite strongly, as would much of the fan base. (Though apparently not you Rob.) Would a fairer price have been about $6 or $7 million? Maybe so. But there's also the risk, and this is something that it sounds like Armstrong was thinking about, if the Blues signed him for less and for a shorter term, in four seasons they'd be paying him more, or watching another team pay him more, or giving him an offer sheet after this season. 
    Armstrong's also optimistic that in two seasons, the salary cap will start going up more quickly and these contracts won't take up as much of the cap space as they do now. 
    With the massive contracts given out by Armstrong there's not going to be any money left for Tarasenko and O'Reilly. Are the Blues going to do a farewell tour for them like the Cardinals are doing for Yadi/Wainwright/Pujols? $67.55M already on the books with 9 spots to fill for 2023. Is the cap going up in 2023?
    It's unlikely you'll see a farewell tour, because it won't be definite that they're gone and they're not retiring. They both will be playing somewhere in 2023-24. 
    I'd expect the cap to go up maybe $1 million for 2023-24, but Armstrong said today he was hoping it would start going up by bigger degrees in the years that follow that, and the league has suggested that could be the case as the sport gets back to normal. Barring the team trading away Krug, Faulk or Parayko, they won't have the money for both Tarasenko and O'Reilly and may not have the money for even one, depending on what the expectations on their salaries look like. (I've always been confident Tarasenko would not be re-signing with the Blues after this contract anyway.) 
    I'd like to see the lines be Schenn/Thomas/Kyrou, Saad/O'Reilly/Neighbors, and Buchnevich/Barbashev/Tarasenko. What are the odds we get to see this?
    There are few lines that we don't see over the course of the season, and that group seems to have a better chance than most. The all-Russian grouping has proved popular, and Thomas and Kyrou are going to go through the rest of their lives together it seems.
    Have you had a chance to see any minor league games with the Thunderbirds?
    I have not seen any Springfield games in their entirety, just bits and pieces over last season. Though it looks like last season was a lot of fun.
    How did Buchnevich look out there? Also did you see the new guys like Acciari and Griess. How do they look and how do you expect them to be this szn!?
    Acciari wasn't out there, the last I saw. (I didn't take attendance today, though it was a good-sized group.) The only thing less accurate than making predictions off preseason games is making them off preseason informal skates. Joe Vitale was running them through drills today. Get back to me in two weeks for a slightly more informed opinion.
    I still don’t see why Armstrong essentially chose Kyrou over Tkachuk when he scored 42 goals compared to Kyrou’s 27 and only costs 1 million more a year than Kyrou. Plus, Tkachuk brings toughness and other intangibles.
    Well, the Blues would have had to give up something to get Tkachuk. It's not like they had $8 million and had to choose which one to give it to and Florida's package to Calgary was a pretty good package. I won't argue that Tkachuk is a better all-around player than Kyrou. He's his equal offensively and much better defensively. And don't discount that $1 million; the Blues are looking at a significant cap struggle next season and every dollar matters and also, Tkachuk got a no-movement clause in Florida, which he was not getting in St. Louis. And Tkachuk gets to live and play in South Florida, which can be quite appealing to many.
    Armstrong didnt choose Kyrou over Tkachuk. THE FLAMES choose the Panthers deal over the Blues offer.
    Happy Wednesday Tom. Its almost time for hockey!

    My question to you feels like a scene from "Mad Max-Beyond Thunderdome"....."two men enter, one man leave". The Blues' have two players with expiring contracts at seasons end and Army can only sign one, which do you sign, Tarasenko or O'Reilly? Assume Tarasenko wants to stay.

    Thank you Tom for the chat.
    Oops. Pushed the wrong button. This is the response to the previous questions:
     The Flames were trying to make the best of a bad situation and did all right for themselves. 
    Now on to Barry's question.
    Even if Tarasenko wanted to stay, I'd go with O'Reilly. The Blues need help on the defensive end and he's one of the best in the league, and I think that's less likely to drop off over time than offensive performance. And I think O'Reilly is going to hold up better than a player like Backes did as he got older. While Tarasenko has helped the team's Russian players adapt, I think O'Reilly's presence and diligence has been a boon to a lot of the younger players. That earns him some points too.
    Us Chatters really support you. Personally I admire your statistical analysis. But when Army has a press conference you don't champion us Chatters! You should have asked him "Why the hell did you trade Husso?" We're not at the press conference so you need to represent us fans not play softball!!
    At this stage, I don't see Armstrong's answer to that question changing from the previous times he's been asked. They traded Husso because they were about to lose him as a free agent and get nothing. And they didn't re-sign him because Husso was going to get more money, and a better chance to play, somewhere else. And if the Blues splurged and re-signed Husso, they not only wouldn't have Perron, they wouldn't have Leddy either. It would be great if they had Husso because he bailed them out last season and two known commodities at goalie are better than one, but the Blues had resources that needed to best be deployed elsewhere.
    I could see the Red Wings making a move on O'Reilly next offseason. Seems like the kind of guy Stevie Y would be drooling over, Thoughts?
    I don't think O'Reilly will lack for offers if he goes on the market. The Red Wings seem to like signing former Blues, and he would be a great fit for a younger team in need of guidance. No team will ever feel short-changed by signing Ryan O'Reilly.
    I think most Blues fans are content with the Kyrou deal. There's always risk giving out 8 year deals, but he was a point per game player last year and is only 24. The next logical question is: what does Kyrou's contract mean for O'Reilly? Right now, the Blues are scheduled to have about $16M in cap space with 6 forwards and a backup goalie to sign after this season (assuming the cap only goes up by $1M again). There would seem to be enough money there (especially if you figure the cap will start to go up more generously in a couple of years) to sign O'Reilly if he comes in around the $5M mark. However, I think the Blues will be reluctant to make a deal with O'Reilly before the season not knowing what you are going to get out of Binnington. If he struggles for a significant portion of the year again, then you have to look at allocating more money to goaltending by bringing in a credible 1B candidate. What are your thoughts on how Kyrou's deal and the overall cap situation of the team impacts the likelihood of a O'Reilly extension?
    It doesn't help, that's for sure. Armstrong today suggested that they would probably be waiting on dealing with the other potential free agents on the roster, and how the season goes will be a factor. (He also said things go on behind the scenes.) It might potentially be easier to trade Scandella when he's going into the final year of his contract. It's a lot easier to stash a guy on your roster for one year rather than two if you're looking for a contract to help you make the cap or just trying to accumulate draft picks. So maybe the Blues can free up $3 million there and if for some reason they were to park company with one of the D-men making $6.5 million, now all of a sudden you've got some room to maneuver. They clearly can't bring both O'Reilly and Tarasenko back, and as I've said in an earlier answer, I think there's more of a plus side with O'Reilly because of his defense, which is an area of weakness for the team, and he's one of the best around. If O'Reilly's next deal is four $4 or $5 million, then maybe it's do-able; if he has a great season and commands more, then probably not.
    We're about at the halfway point, so hey there!, but we're also running low on questions, which may put us closer to the end.
    Can I give you a list of questions for Army? Just say these questions are comprised from Blues fans! He might like this format. We need to be more involved in the team's direction. After all who is paying the bills? It's not Stillman it's us fans forking out huge ticket prices!
    I certainly can't stop you from submitting questions for Armstrong -- well, technically I can with the Block function, but I won't -- but we're probably not going to talk to him again until after the opening-day roster is finalized. So you've got a month or so to get ready.
    We've got a slight break in the action here as we wait for more questions to jump into the hopper. So if you've got something on your mind, step right up.
    All the Blues games in Traverse City will be streamed on the team's website, starting with a game vs. Columbus tomorrow at 2 p.m. Then they play Toronto at 5 p.m. on Friday and close with Dallas on Sunday at 10 a.m. Then camp is supposed to open on the 22nd at Centene, and two days later, they're playing games.
    Why would O'Reilly settle for $4M or $5M? People need to stop playing fantasy hockey and understand this is how players make a living. It's a business. (just ask Perron)
    Well, if his offensive performance keeps trending down as it has the past three seasons, that won't be earning him any raises. I think his next contract is going to be for less than the $7.5 million he makes now. But how much does it come down? He'll be 32 at the start of next season. Is he worth $5 million a year at that point? Backes at the same point got $6 million from Boston, and maybe that's where O'Reilly ends up. This season will be a determining factor. O'Reilly played very well at the end of last season. If he can keep that up, he will keep his salary high, and also will be a lot more likely to be earning that salary somewhere else.
    Just curious, how do the prospects travel to their camp? Charter flight? Bus? Were there any of the Blues staff, coaches going on the trip?
    The Blues' charter flight into Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City landed at 3:21 p.m. Eastern time. For many of these guys, it's probably their first time on a charter flight, which is also one of the things the Blues use about this tournament, showing youngsters what it's like to be a pro. For kids who have been riding buses for years in juniors, it's an eye opener.
    I've never been to the tournament, so I'm not positive as to who all attends. It's more the front office and scouting types who are there, but I think the coaches are there for at least some of it, though they may come back early. Also, the golf is good up there. Jim would have that answer if he were here. 
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